Monday, December 31, 2007

An Attempt to Maintain My Sanity

At the beginning of the school year I was asked to take a block of the Theater Arts class, I love movies and theater (and wasn't really given a choice) so I agreed. Now I have no training in theater arts, though I took a year of tech theater and regular theater in high school, over a decade ago. I was excited, but what I didn't count on was that most of the kids wouldn't want to be in the class and were stuck there. This is probably the most stressful semester I've had since my first year of teaching.

So I am redesigning the class, I gave my boss, aka the principal, a verbal proposal before the holiday. I want to change it to a film history/analysis class. I am looking for resources and curriculum ideas, any help is appreciated. I must include higher level thinking skills and presentations. I am looking for resources to find old movies or lists of influential films, subject matter or technological, to show segments of. I'm also looking for activity ideas. I have two major projects planned, one as the final exam. I'm going to emphasize analysis and literary devices in film. We will also be looking at film adaptations of books.

Thanks in advance for your help fellow movie buffs.

Rum Cheesecake

Alright, I did a little experiment with desert this Christmas. I made a rum cheesecake, I had made a creme de menthe cheesecake a couple of times and it went over really well. I didn't have a recipe, so I just used the same amount of rum as creme de menthe. The reaction was that it was ok, but it wasn't an overwhelming (I love that word because you can be overwhelmed and underwhelmed, but no one is ever whelmed.) success. I just made regular cheesecake and added a little rum and baked it up. I could really use some tips on what might be good with the rum to improve the flavor. I've already thought of cinnamon and nutmeg, though suggested amounts would be appreciated.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Couple More Ornaments


A Poem I Liked

Empty Bed Blues
by Bessie Smith

I woke up this mornin' with an awful achin' head
I woke up this mornin' with an awful achin' head
My new man had left me just a room and a empty bed

Bought me a coffee grinder, got the best one I could find
Bought me a coffee grinder, got the best one I could find
So he could grind my coffee, 'cause he had a brand new grind

He's a deep sea diver with a stroke that can't go wrong
He's a deep sea diver with a stroke that can't go wrong
He can touch the bottom and his wind holds out so long

He knows how to thrill me and he thrills me night and day
Lord, he knows how to thrill me, he thrills me night and day
He's got a new way of lovin' almost takes my breath away

Lord, he's got that sweet somethin', and I told my gal friend
Lou
He's got that sweet somethin', and I told my gal friend Lou
From the way she's ravin', she must have gone and tried it
too.

When my bed get empty, make me feel awful mean and blue
When my bed get empty, make me feel awful mean and blue
My springs are gettin' rusty, sleepin' single like I do

Bought him a blanket, pillow for his head at night
Bought him a blanket, pillow for his head at night
Then I bought him a mattress so he could lay just right

He came home one evening with his spirit way up high
He came home one evening with his spirit way up high
What he had to give me made me wring my hands and cry

He give me a lesson that I never had before
He give me a lesson that I never had before
When he got throu8gh teachin' me, from my elbow down was
sure

He boiled my first cabbage and he made it awful hot
He boiled my first cabbage and he made it awful hot
Then he put in the bacon, it overflowed the pot

When you get good lovin', never go and spread the news
Yeah, it will double cross you and leave you with them empty
bed blues.


The lady that wrote this poem died in 1937. Seems like people had the same problems even in the "good ole days", they just chose to keep it quiet and not go on Jerry Springer.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I am Legend

The husband and I went to see "I am Legend" a week ago Saturday. We were able to do so because my mom called and wanted the kid for the night, a one night pass from "baby jail".

Now my husband and I have both read the book by Richard Matheson. It's a great book, short but intense. If you aren't a fan or horror and have passed this book by because it's in the horror section, reconsider. It is an amazing character study and looks at the true nature of good and evil. If you enjoyed the movies "Somewhere in Time" and "What Dreams May Come", I strongly suggest reading all three books by Matheson.

I know many people were weary of Will Smith being in the role of Robert Neville because they think of "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" or "Men in Black". If you have never seen the episode of "Fresh Prince" when Will is shot by a mugger, I highly recommend it. You will also see that even in those early years he had some serious acting chops. I was not concerned with Will's acting ability but with possible directoral choices. I was very afraid they would have him do his catch phrase from Independence Day, "Ah, hell no!" They didn't do it.

Now onto the actual film...

For most of the movie Robert Neville is alone, except for his dog, after a virus rips through the human race, either killing them or causing them to attack their fellow humans. We discover about him through flashbacks that show his wife and daughter. At the opening of the movie Neville has been alone for 3 years, and is showing signs of losing his mind, though the signs are very subtle. The director used a great combination of subtle techniques to show Neville's mind starting to slip, including his dialogue, body language and interaction with his environment. We see Neville clinging to daily rituals, partly out of survival necessity and partly to maintain his sanity. In this updated version, he is a scientist/soldier that was part of the team to cure the virus, and though he thinks he is the only person left alive he continues to seek a cure. This was also true in the Charleton Heston version, "Omega Man," though it was not true in the book. The writer and director did a great job of adapting the book to film for the most part. They did alter the mentality of the infected to an animal state of intelligence, with the exception of the alpha male, while in the book they retain their human intelligence. Sadly, they did alter the ending and lose the message of the novel. I will not explain how the ending was altered as that will spoil both the movie and the book.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie a lot.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Fire

A neglected fire
Fades in the dark of the cave
The embers' warmth remains hidden in the shadows
It waits to be stoked again to brightness.

The hidden light denied
Yet not gone altogether
Should the light fade past returning
The warmth will linger and give comfort.

Add more fuel to the fire
Renew the warmth and light
Light and warmth shared
The flames have previously unseen facets.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

NMSA

For those of you who aren't teachers, or are teachers and not from the US, NMSA stands for the National Middle School Association. I was lucky enough to get to go to my first teacher's conference on Friday and Saturday of last week. I really enjoyed it, it was sort of like having a three day weekend.

Our keynote speaker on Friday was Cal Ripkin, Jr. I hear he was very inspiring, as I am not a baseball fan and my A/C had died at home, I skipped his speech. I had to call maintenance to get it fixed, it turned out the motor had completely burned out and had to be replaced. (Might explain, at least partially, the higher than normal electric bills lately.) Once I was out of the assembly I ran down to check out the vendors, soooo much fun stuff. (Lots of freebies too.)I admit to geeking out. I think I am overusing parentheses.

I got to hear several good workshops, including Ruby Payne. Her speciality is working with poverty stricken kids. I had gotten a completely different picture of her message from the people that had raved about her approach. I quite enjoyed her ideas and she was a very good public speaker.

Some other things that I got to explore were diversifying instruction with multiple intelligences, increasing literacy using graphic novels, and educating students on free trade and sweatshops.

The speaker that I really wanted to see was Mae Jamison, the first African-American female to head a shuttle mission. While we waited for the speech to begin, they had the choral choir from Conroe (I believe) sing for us. These young ladies were immensely talented. She was well spoken and had a great sense of humor. She encouraged us to push kids while supporting them. I am really hoping that they put a video or transcript of her speech on the NMSA website. I did get to shake her hand and take her picture at the end.

Some Christmas Stitching







Saturday, November 3, 2007

Christmas Stocking




I made this stocking for a friend's baby.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

In my Past Life

Your past life diagnosis: I don't know how you feel about it, but you were female in your last earthly incarnation.You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Thailand around the year 1575. Your profession was that of a sailor or shoemaker.

Your brief psychological profile in your past life:
Inquisitive, inventive, you liked to get to the very bottom of things and to rummage in books. Talent for drama, natural born actor.

The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation:
There is an invisible connection between the material and the spiritual world. Your lesson is to search, find and use this magical bridge. Do you remember now?

http://thebigview.com/pastlife/

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Sad Day for Fantasy Fans


For those of you who may not have heard, Robert Jordan died yesterday from a primary amyloidosis, which causes the walls of your heart to thicken. He was 58 years old. He is best known for his epic series, "The Wheel of Time".

I read the first book, "Eye of the World" in high school and loved it. I wasn't aware it was part of a series and spent many years trying to convince my husband to read it. He finally did when his brother, David, had the whole series, at the time, of six books. We have both enjoyed the series very much, up to the twelfth book and the prequel.

I enjoyed his characters, which always felt real and as if all I had to do was turn the corner to run into someone just like them. I found his women characters well rounded and powerful. I also enjoyed the way he blended the world of Dune by Frank Herbert and Lord of the Rings by Tolkien together into a cohesive reality. I am sad to say that very selfishly I wish that he had been able to finish the series that I have read three times now (one of the few books I have reread). I know many literature snobs will say he was unoriginal and a hack, I don't care. I enjoyed his writing, it made me laugh, cry, and angry. Tolkien himself stole (or borrowed) his material from older stories. If you are going to steal ideas, steal them from the best as Steven Spielburg himself said. What better material to draw from than the grandfather's of epic scifi and fantasy?

I found a couple of years ago, in a used bookstore, another book by him under the name of Reagan O'Neal, a historical fiction set in his hometown. I grabbed it up without a thought. Sadly, it was the second in the trilogy and I have yet to find the first, so it sits on my shelf gathering dust. Today I discovered that he wrote some Conan books too, I will have to hunt for them.

My condolences to his wife and friends. We will all miss you.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

An incident at work

Yesterday was the first day back at school for teachers, a day of welcomes and workshops. It was great to be back and see everyone. It was the usual stuff that teachers hear every year, and work very hard not to zone out during every year. ;) Went to lunch had a good time, though the restaurant really messed up, and we were all late getting back. The boss was very understanding.

At the end of the day we were all released to work in our rooms, as I worked I heard a co-worker make a comment I found a bit upsetting. If you are from Texas you know, that the legislature just passed a law adding "under God" to the Texas pledge. My co-worker said "I'm happy about the change in the pledge". That I don't have a problem with, though I did find it mildly disturbing. What really bothered me was what she said next, "It serves the jerks right for trying to take God out of everything." I was a bit shocked and a bit offended. I very much wanted to confront her, but bit my tongue, she wasn't addressing me and I knew my temper was too high.

Our government is suppose to be a secular government, no state or federal religion so that all religions and cultures feel welcome and included. I very much want to ask how she would feel if the city, state, or federal government added a line asking people to swear on Buddha, Vishnu, or Allah. Most likely she would be deeply offended. It saddens me that so many can not put themselves in other people's shoes and understand where other people are coming from.

I've heard some people say that the God in the pledge is a general god idea. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that outside of the Christian faith the capital "G" god refers specifically to the Christian/Jewish god. Other religions use the specific name of the god they are referring to. I've tried to explain it this way. If you are talking about your own mom, you say or write "Mom", when you talk about all moms it is a lowercase m.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

First Time Camping

Well, summer time is almost over. The family is in need of some adventure. My husband had been wanting to go camping for years, but I had never done it and the prospect of going camping in the Texas heat never held any appeal for me. This year I said, lets go for it. At first we talked about going to a little camp site one town over that he use to go to when he was a kid. Then I remembered stopping to go horseback riding through a canyon in Texas as a break on a road trip to Colorado. We looked online and the scenery was inspiring, so we decided to go 11 hours away to go camping in Palo Duro Canyon.

We left very early in the morning, so we could get there in time for check in and so we could get our new tent set up before dark. We found a site with a good amount of shade. It was hot, but breezy. As long as the breeze was moving it was pretty comfortable. There was supposed to be no rain for the entire time we were there, so of course the second afternoon there was a thunderstorm. We got soaked, the river flooded, the water came within 10 feet of our tent. We had to spend a couple of hours in our tent, but the skies cleared by the evening. It was a good thing we didn't have a camp site deeper in the canyon, because the water crossings flooded. The water was 5 feet over the road. There was a family that had the teenagers at camp and the adults in town, the adults were trapped on the opposite side of the water from the teens for the night. By the next afternoon, you could barely tell that it had rained.

We saw all manner of wildlife, a groundhog, deer and turkey (they walked right into camp many times), cardinals, hawks, spiders, butterflies, etc. And in Don's case, a giant tarantula. I've decided that I can't wait to go camping again. I will post some pictures when I get them uploaded on this computer.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Concern for Our Children's Education

As a teacher and a parent, I am concerned about the condition of the United States' public education system. I have substituted all grade levels and taught Pre-K and 8th grade for three years each. I remember sitting in my education classes and hearing all about developmentally-appropriate education and child-centered activities, part of me thought this was great, but I also felt that it had been taken too far. The idea that each child is different is nothing new, anyone with more than one child or anyone that grew up with a sibling can tell you that. The idea of letting kids "go at their own pace" bothered me. It probably came from my middle class upbringing, in which my parents instilled a strong work ethic in myself and my sister. We were raised that you had to work for things you wanted, materially or educationally. I could never understand what was wrong with pushing kids to their fullest potential, yet that it what it constantly seemed like I was being told in education courses, that it was bad for them to have to work to learn or to push them mentally. (Now the professors never said this outright, and probably weren't even aware they were advocating it. I think I even asked the question once and got an answer about their self-esteem.) Having worked outside of education, mostly to get through school, I have observed that no where outside of the school environment will a boss make the job "employee(child)-centered" or let you go at your "own pace". There are deadlines in the real world and to teach kids otherwise is a disservice to them.

I spent some time this summer looking for a teaching job in Minnesota and I came across this charter school which utilized "Classical Liberal Arts" education. Basically it means that they believe in giving students a wide variety of knowledge about all subjects and that students should be taught specific facts rather than how to learn or the steps to being a critical thinker. This was how the founding fathers of our nation were taught. I started researching CLAE (Classical Liberal Arts Education) and found that it addressed many of my concerns, and concerns I've heard from other teachers, about what I see in public school. Sadly, I did not get hired on by any of the schools that I applied to. I'm not sad to still be at my current job, but the ideas got me passionate about education again.

In my reading up on the topic, I came across a book by one of the proponents of CLAE. I have lifted part of the conclusion here, because he says the things I've been noticing for years so well. The Romantic movement, in a nutshell, is that we are all wonderful the way God made us and should be allowed to do everything "naturally".

Quoted from "The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them" by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

By now it is obvious to everyone that the Romantic-progressive approach to learning has not worked in American public schools. But the dangers remains that Americans will give credence to the continually repeated claims that the "new" ideas have never been properly tired. In the 1990s, that is the only plausible-sounding argument which could be marshaled in defense of these failed Romantic-progressive ideas. The "never-properly-tried" argument is difficult to counter decisively, because any example of failure can instantly be labeled a flawed, inauthentic attempt, while any anecdotal success can instantly be labeled a triumphant vindication of progressivist theory. But the research literature offers not one example of successful implementation of progressivist methods in a carefully controlled longitudinal study. In fact, as I showed in Chapter 4, process-outcome research has consistently shown just the opposite, that the Romantic-progressive approach is always the least effective approach studied. No wonder there is a continual demand by progressivists for new types of assessments that would make these results come out differently! Is is incumbent upon the public and the press to reject this "never-properly-tried" argument. We simply cannot afford more decades of "child-centered" credulity.


I would think that if you been trying an idea for over sixty years, it becomes very difficult to believe that it's not working because of the teachers. I doubt in sixty years that every single person did it wrong.

We cannot afford any more decades dominated by ideas that promote natural, integrated project-learning over focused instruction leading to well-practiced operational skills in reading and mathematics, and well-stocked minds conversant with individual subject matters like history and biology. We need to reject the ill-founded notions that every child learns naturally at his or her own pace and that teaching the child is more important than teaching the subject (whatever that means, beyond failure to teach the subject.) We must not accept the claim that knowing how to learn (which is an abstract skill that does not even exist) is more important than having a broad foundation of factual knowledge that really does enable further learning. We must reject the disparagement of verbal learning and the celebration of "hands-on" learning, based on the false Romantic premise that mere words are inauthentic components of human understanding. We cannot afford still to accept the untrue belief that adequate schooling is natural and painless, and mainly a function of individual talent rather than hard work. We must reject the false claim that delaying learning until the child is "ready" will speed up learning in the long run. We must cease listening to the siren call that learning should be motivated entirely by inward love of the subject and interest in it, without a significant admixture of external incentive. In short, we must cease attending to the Romantic ideas that the reformers of the 1990s, echoing the reformers of the 1902s, '30s, and '40s and all the decades in between, have been pronouncing in chorus. These ideas are emphatically not reforms. They are the long-dominant controlling ideas of our failed schools.


I have discussed similar ideas with many of my colleagues at work, and many of them have seen the damaging effects of making activities pretty all the time, especially in math. Some of you may read this and think that he believes that kids should never do projects or hands-on activities, he says several times in the book that this is not so. I have taken workshops for programs that are suppose to be revolutionary and improve students' scores, and most of the time it is already something we do with a new name and a slight variation. Changing the name of something does not change how it works or improve learning. Changing the title of a program or method is not reform, merely a vocabulary change, it reminds me of the politically correct movement. Altering a title does not change the reality.

I taught Acceleration (a TAKS, standardized test, tutorial class for lack of a better explanation) last year. Previously the kids could get out of the class if they passed a benchmark (practice test), last they could not. This class took the place of an elective and usually they were in math too, which meant they got no elective all year. I can't imagine how fried their brains were at the end of the day. I got to know those kids very well. I encouraged them to work hard with the offer of a individual reward if they improved their score each time and a class party if they all improved. My department head kept saying you have to teach them higher level thinking skills, and I kept telling her, they can think they just don't have the background knowledge. We had two parties that year and after the real test we had another. Out of my 16 students that had never passed the test, or hadn't passed since elementary, 13 passed and everyone scores went up. One of them even got commended, which means he missed less than four problems. I am teaching that class again this year, maybe more than one block, and I will be making my own curriculum.

I have heard people say that teachers don't care anymore, I find this very inaccurate, at least among the teachers I know. I would say they are frequently frustrated with the system in which they work because they are not listened to by the policy makers. I encourage all teachers, board members, and anyone else in education to take a look at this book and studies in psychology and neuro-biology. I plan on giving a copy to my principal and maybe the head of our school board (probably anonymously).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows


Well, I just finished the final installment of Harry Potter, I mean less than five minutes ago. I know that everyone will be talking about it and reviewing the book. I am putting in my two cents, but I promise that I won't include any spoilers.

I love Harry Potter, I have enjoyed the way Rowling has grown the books with her intended audience. I spent the last couple of weeks listening to the audio books of all the previous volumes to refresh myself on the little details. (I remembered all the major plot points, but not all the little stuff, which a portion of played an important role in the latest adventure.)

The first thing that struck me was how much Harry had grown up from the previous books, he is more thoughtful and less rash. I know that he showed that a bit in book six when he broke up with Ginny, to protect her, but at the time I read it as a stereotypical storybook romantic gesture on the part of an over gallant teenage boy. Not blaming Rowling for this but rather how a teenage boy would feel about protecting his girl, even if she is perfectly capable of taking care of herself.

I have to say, that I'm glad I was right about Snape. If you know me personally you'll already know my theory about Dumbledore and Snape. I won't go into details in case people reading this haven't read the last two books. I hate spoilers and don't want to ruin the experience for others.

It was nice seeing the characters out of their usual element whether it was Hogwarts or the Ministry of Magic. We got to see a little deeper into some of the secondary characters' personalities and relationships. All I'll say is rock on Mrs. Weasley and Neville's grandma! You can kick ass and take names with the best of them.

I strongly recommend that you have tissues handy if the sixth book made you cry, you'll need them here too.

I felt the book was well paced and an excellent wrap up to the whole series. Rowling wrapped up all of the loose ends and answered many fan questions about things hinted at in the other volumes. I felt satisfied with the ending.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I Made This



I made this for a friend's birthday.

I used a picture of her actual pet to make it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mourn for a Man That Brought Science to a Generation


Don Herbert, aka Mr. Wizard, died yesterday in his home at 89. I fondly remember his show. Another great person to come out of Minnesota. I will miss you Mr. Wizard, thanks for the knowledge and entertainment. At least we still have Bill Nye to carry on the tradition of getting kids to love science.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

News Flash

I've known about this news for a couple of weeks, but didn't know what to say about it, other than I am very happy. I know many people will probably think I'm crazy, but I have to follow my heart. Don has decided he needs to come home. We have some things we will need to work on of course, but we are both willing to try. I won't explain more of his reasons, because they are his if he wishes to share them with the public. I doubt he will though. What's important is that he shares them with me and A. Right now he will be home on the 16th (date subject to change). He had gotten a job up in Minnesota and put in his two weeks so that he is leaving on good terms in case we end up back in Minnesota. I am searching for a job in Minnesota, I still want to move back up there.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kids Say the Darnest Things

Earlier this week I bought some giant strawberries to snack on. The kid and I both love strawberries. A. had three of them. It was time for her to get ready for bed and I started tapping her on the head with an empty paper towel roll. I asked her why her head was hollow and what happened to her brain. Her response was that her brain shrinks when she eats strawberries but that it would be ok because her brain would grow back while she slept. I love her quick wit. Lord help her friends and parents when the sarcasm of the teenage years is added.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I am Hero!


Your Score: Micah Sanders


You scored 91 Idealism, 33 Nonconformity, 45 Nerdiness




Can we play Scrabble tonight?

Congratulations, you're Micah Sanders! You're good-natured, intelligent, perceptive, and naturally inclined toward technology. You're also quite innocent and loving. You've got a fondness for computers and Scrabble.

Your best quality: You're extremely perceptive
Your worst quality: You can be a little demanding at times



Link: The Heroes Personality Test written by freedomdegrees on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Look What I Made Today


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Fund Raiser

I went to a fund raiser today for a family friend. He's a Marine that served two tours of duty in Iraq without a scratch, then he gets home and gets hit by a car while playing football. That just plain sucks. He was hurt very badly and has huge medical bills and a lot of physical therapy to go through to get better.

What I did not know when I agreed to help out was that I was being set up to meet a guy. Apparently the friends had been talking me up to him for a little while. They made sure we worked together and he spent most of the day by my side. He seemed very sweet, buying me sodas, etc. Anyone have any suggestions as to what to do?

I made this

Friday, May 18, 2007

Musings

Went to the eye doctor yesterday to get me and the girl's eyes checked. I had been hoping that she would escape the family's bad eyes. No such luck, though I seemed to have caught it at the very beginning, hopefully it will help slow down her eyes getting worse. Found her some really cute frames. I'm wearing contacts today for the first time in about 6 years. I got some great glasses too, very sassy!

Today was 8th grade play day, kind of an 8th grade graduation without the cheesy ceremony. We rent out the Palm Beach section of Moody Gardens. The teachers get to go relax in the sun and ignore the students, the lifeguards supervise. It's awesome! On the way home, a coworker said something very interesting. She was talking about how she has a very addictive personality. She'll try something just once, and if it's really good she just can't give it up. One example she gave was this olive dip stuff for bagels that she ate for breakfast for 5 years. She said the only way she can give these things up is to use Lint, because her "addiction to God" is stronger than any other. I thought this was a very interesting way to phrase it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Birthday


About a week ago it was the girl's birthday, she was terribly excited because of her party and the fact that Spiderman 3 opened on her birthday. In honor of this she decided to have a Spiderman birthday party. None of the people from school that she invited showed up, this turned out to be a good thing since several unexpected people showed up.

We went to see Spiderman on opening day, she loved it, me not so much. It was entertaining, but I wanted more character development and less camp.

There is a picture of her birthday cake. I made it myself.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A New Thing

I just started a fire in the grill and grilled chicken for the first time. I had to create my own marinade. Daughter said it was good.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Another Update

I am still working on my project, but will be done very shortly. I am actually in the mood to write, I'm really eager and feel the need to do so. This is a completely new sensation for me. Much of my writing will probably remain private, but I'm sure some stuff will get on here.

I am looking for a teaching job in Minnesota. Wish me luck.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy

I've been keeping very busy the last couple of weeks, mostly working on a project for a friend's birthday. But I have taken some time to relax too.

Last Friday I went out for my birthday, had a great time. The full story will be on my MySpace page as soon as I get pictures back from Steve.

Now last night was great. I met Mark Z. Danielewski, the author of House of Leaves, The Whalestoe Letters, and Only Revolutions. He did a reading in Houston, as a favor for a friend that runs the local literary magazine, Gulf Coast. I didn't even know we had a literary magazine, it's really fat and only comes out twice a year, they print all genres and discusses art as well. The current issue had colored copies of first draft pages from Only Revolutions, I got it signed. I also went and bought new copies of HoL and OR and got them signed.

Mark is very handsome and personable. He's a genius, but doesn't seem at all pretentious. He was wearing jeans. He read three selections from Only Revolutions. A part on Sam's side from a party in the 1920's, a part from Hailey's from the 1990's, and the end from Sam's point of view. The end made me cry. I felt an empathy with Sam and his pain and anger at his loss that he could not prevent.

I found out the scene from House of Leaves of the woman dying in the hospital is a true story, which he heard from a friend that worked in ICU. Poe is writing a new album, part of which inspired OR and part which was inspired by OR. Mark is hoping that the audio book will be ready when the paperback comes out, he will be reading Sam. He said they heard many very good Sam's but felt many fans would prefer to hear him read it. I'm eagerly awaiting the audio, because I have such a tough time with poetry, but I really want to read this book.

I took my daughter with me. She spent most of the evening playing her Gameboy, but found the 20's slang very amusing. After the reading she wanted to ask him why he wrote House of Leaves, I told her he might not have a short answer. She decided to ask him what his favorite animal was. She did ask him, he said a cat. I then mentioned that she really wanted to ask why he wrote HoL, he told her it was because it was in him and just had to get out. Then told me, she is a wonder. He signs his books in different colors, I don't know if that's strictly because of OR or if he's always done it. He let A. pick out the color with which he signed each book. He even took the time to ask her, her name.

I also met this really cool girl before the reading started, she had driven all the way from Arlington to get HoL signed. She's a theater major and wants to teach. We started talking because the book she was reading was making her laugh out loud. It was by Christopher Moore and now I have another author to add to my "To Be Read" list.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


I took The Girl to see TMNT today. I loved the Turtles as a kid, but was concerned about them revisiting the franchise. I have seen too many franchises revisited and ruined.

All I can say is that it was HAWESOME!! They didn't rehash the beginning of the turtles, they didn't remake the old movie, but continued the story from when the stuff in the 80's left off. Now I loved the original movies, with the turtle suits and all.

They updated it a little, not in the references, but April and KC are living together. April isn't a reporter but has a cargo business and knows about archeology. Not only that, but she has trained and kick but with a sword.

All the characters retained their original personalities. There is character development and a plot. The fight scenes were beautifully choreographed. Some will say, "But it was animated." All the fight scenes still have to be worked out. There is one where two characters are fighting on the roof top in the rain and the individual raindrops dripped down faces or bounced off.

Everyone that likes the Turtles should see this movie, hell, even if you are just a fan of action movies go see it.

A second try


I tried drawing Charlie Brown again. I used a grid, but didn't measure with a ruler. The grid was just to help be keep the proportions correct.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So Long, We Will Miss You

Kurt Vonnegut died last night. Best known for Slaughterhouse Five. I enjoyed his easy conversational tone when writing, and his biting wit. His blatant honesty will be missed in this world.

Looking for an image of Kurt to use for this, I noticed that as he got older he looked like Mark Twain or Einstein.


November 11, 1922-April 11, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Attempt at a new skill


I tried drawing the following cartoon.

Here is the original.











Here is my freehand, first try.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Conflicted

I'm torn. I have many things I want to be doing right now. I want to rework some poetry, cross-stitch, strip paint from furniture, write about a realization I've come to about myself, or practice drawing. So I'm working on the cross-stitch since I have a deadline. I need a ruler for the drawing, which I'll pick up tomorrow at school. I don't think I've ever had so many creative activities that I've been split between.

Tomorrow I will also be getting what I need to apply to a charter school that follows the classical liberal arts approach to education, so I also have research reading to do. And I just started a book, Dies the Fire, that the husband recommended to me strongly.

Say What?

This is a story I wrote for a writing workshop I had to attend, the years ago, to get my current teaching job. It is based on a true story.

As with most families these days, our family is always on the move. My husband and I work different schedules, so the days when we can all be together as a family are sporadic. The days that we do have together are cherished. One day, Don, A., and I were relaxing at home when Aunt Jenny, my husband's sister, came by for a rare visit. As the adults talk, three year old A. runs excitedly to her bedroom to get something she just has to share with her aunt.

"Aunt Jenny, Aunt Jenny! Play ponies with me! You can be the sister, I'll be the Mommy and the baby."

Jenny takes a pony and tries to play with A., and talk with her brother at the same time.

A., as the Mommy pony, "What's the matter baby?"

"I'm consternated, Mommy," A. says as the baby pony.

This snaps the adults out of their conversation, startled by the surety with which she uses this unfamiliar word.

"What did you say honey?" I ask A.

"Consternated," she replies.

"Do you mean constipated?" I question quizzically.

"No, consternated!" she says with the exasperated tone of one long troubled by another's ignorance.

"Is that even a real word? I've never heard it before," I say turning to Don and Jenny.

"It's a real word. I've seen it used before, but I can't remember where," my husband confirms.

"I haven't either," responds Jenny.

"What does it mean sweetie?" I inquire.

"It's when you go rrr," as she stomps her foot and shakes her fist.

Being a teacher, I run to get a dictionary and quickly flip through the pages.

"Ah, here it is! Consternation means frustration. She used it correctly! I can't believe it! Two of us have never even heard of it and she defined it correctly. honey, where did you learn this word?"

"I don't know Mommy."

A. continues playing obliviously as the adults work through their shock at a three year old's vocabulary.

Eternally curious, I set out to discover where my daughter picked up this unusual turn of phrase. I ask her preschool teacher if they have used consternated in class, they reply that they haven't. I then ask the rest of the teachers at the school if they are familiar with the word that is causing me so much bewilderment. None have used it in front of their students and most have not heard of it before. I guess how A. learned such a large word will forever be a mystery.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Awakening

Aurora hidden in the vines,
Awaiting the one to wake her.
A kiss starts the rose to bloom,
The bud's scent speaks of love,
Yet it never fully blossoms.
Not content with scent alone,
The one searches for other flowers.

The light has fallen from the sky,
The rose withers in the dark.
A ray of light illumes the endless night,
The rose blooms for herself alone.
The first bloom is ever present and unending,
As the rose buds afresh.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I Don't Know What's Gotten into Me

I think counseling is good for me. I have gone from never writing to writing something everyday, maybe not on here but I am writing. I am looking within myself as never before, I've avoided doing this since I was a little kid.

A heart closed to all but one
Feelings spoken but not shown
The only one runs away
Sudden loss brings forth despair.

Shattered heart begins to heal
A chance to grow for me alone
Love is still there and never ceases
As I return to my better self.

Taking risks and staying strong
Learning who I am again
Opening the heart to myself and child
Realizing a capacity for many loves.

Hope that feelings that still remain
Gives life to second chances
Even if the chance should falter
Love and strength will abide.

Reseting mind set proves possible
Positive can overcome negative
The right motivation is all that's needed
The self, the child, the future.

Love can fade when taken for granted
It can diminish when in a box too cramped and hostile
It doesn't evaporate into nothingness
It searches for a sunnier and more fertile soil.

Transplant it and give it a chance to take hold again
Add other loves to enrich it and the heart
Love shared is held nearer and dearer
My heart has more dimensions than I ever knew.

I am exploring self
Discovering me
I'm beginning to like who I see
I have a strength that I did not realize.

I am ready to wander through the unexplored
I am ready to leave the pre-made road
Together or alone it will be done.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Parent's Nightmare

My daughter, A., got really sick. I took her to the doctor yesterday, he informed me that a trip to the emergency room was necessary. They fast tracked us through the emergency room and we got in fairly quickly, our total time there was only about three and a half hours. A very short time to be in the emergency room, but it felt like an eternity.

The pain in her eyes and the sounds she made when they examined her, it was the most horrible thing I have ever had to see or hear. I tried to be strong and not let her see how much it upset me, but I couldn't help but cry. Watching that really brought home how important she is to me. Why is it that I can't seem to fully realize people's importance to me until there is a crisis?

A. is fine, if a little sore and very exhausted. I'm hoping she'll be completely herself tomorrow. She was able to give several full smiles without prompting last night before we left the emergency room. She did tell me that I was saying "I love you" too much. Not that that is really possible.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Poetry, Sophmore Attempt

My first attempt at poetry got wiped out when I deleted my first personal blog, so for most of you this is my freshman work.

Waiting for a decision.
Anticipating the future.
Anxious to hear,
Aware I shouldn't push.

Hopeful of the news to come.
Joyous at the possibilities.
Eager for it to work,
Aware of the probable complications.

Always honest in matters of heart and mind.
Making choices with thought and emotion.
Looking at all the angles,
The best choice made regardless of popularity.

A Late Review

I know this movie has been out on DVD a while, but I borrowed it from my parents and watched it last night. Miss Congeniality 2, a Sandra Bullock sequel to the hit Miss Congeniality, was enjoyable. It starts off with the FBI offering Ms. Hart a job as the "face of the FBI" after a sting operation at a bank goes wrong because she is recognized by the people. Ms. Hart is upset about her field days being over and then gets the double whammy of her boyfriend breaking up with her.
We then introduce the other half of the team, another woman agent with anger management issues. Hart takes her on to prevent her from being transferred, needless to say, she isn't grateful. You get the fairly standard bickering as with all reluctant buddy movies. William Shattner returns in his role from the first film.

It is a funny and enjoyable movie. It does pull some of the gags and jokes from the first movie, but not overly much. If you need a lighthearted romp with decent chemistry between the cast members I recommend this movie.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Night Out

I went out last night to the Seabrook Beach Club, first time I've been out in ages. A few people from work went because they were having a teacher appreciation night in honor of Spring Break. I wore something cute and flirted with a coworker, who's married. :) I also met this really cool guy named Sherman. Told obscene jokes, drank TWO daiquiris, and laughed a lot. Sherman gave me his number and seems to know some great places to go and have fun. He likes to dance and I haven't been dancing in over 13 years, it might be fun to go again. He likes to paint and sculpt, what is it with me and the artsy type?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Two Movies in Two Nights


I got a rare treat this weekend, I got to see two movies in as many nights.

On Friday, I took my daughter, Aislinn, and her friend, Elizabeth, to see Bridge to Terabithia. I had read the book over a decade ago in college and until I was the previews I forgot that there was any fantasy elements in it.


The movie is visually beautiful, not just the parts where the CGI fantasy characters show up but in the way that it is shot to help convey the innocence of our heroes. The opening credits take the drawings and bring them to life while still looking like drawings, it's lovely artwork and gives a good sense of the movie.

The basic story is mainly about Jesse, a poor boy in a small town, he is picked on by the school bullies. He loves to race, which he tries to use to gain the respect of the bullies, and drawing, which he hides from everyone. It's the day of the big race and his mom throws out his shoes and gives him a pair of his sister's old sneakers (They're pink, oh the horror). This is also the day that the new girl, Leslie, shows up. She's cute, but her style is a bit shocking to the small town kids. The race starts and both Jesse and Leslie race, Jesse pulls ahead of the bullies but is defeated by the "new girl". Jesse is a shy, reserved boy and Leslie is the opposite of him. They become friends through her efforts. She's helps him relax and encourages his drawing. They develop a close friendship and create an imaginary world in which to escape the bullies at school.

This is a beautiful story about friendship, love, bullying, family struggle, and the power of imagination. If you read the book, you will be glad to hear that they stuck very close to it. If you are looking for a lighthearted, silly kids movie this isn't the one to go to. It isn't scary, but parts are deeply emotional. I wouldn't recommend this movie for small children, there is not a lot of action.

Last night my sister and I went to the movies together, we wanted to see Pan's Labyrinth, IMDB.com told me it was showing at AMC 30. We got there and no Pan's Labyrinth. We ended up going to see the new Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, Music and Lyrics.

Hugh is funny as always and Drew is her usual charming self. Hugh Grant is playing a has been 80's pop star from a band called Pop. Drew is a slightly neurotic girl that is taking care of his plants for a couple of days.

Hugh's character gets a chance to write a song for Cara, the biggest star in rock, and Drew is there when he is working on it. She spouts off some decent lines and he begs her to help him. This is not a surprising comedy, but it is funny, sweet, charming and enjoyable.

In place with the idea of him being a 80's Has-Been, at the end credits the movie makers chose to take a page from VH-1's Pop-Up Video show and update you on events using speech bubbles over one of "Pops" old videos. The song they write is sweet and a little catchy, I was singing along by the end of the movie.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Bright Spot in the Gloom

Yesterday I was feeling really down and that maybe my husband had never loved or that I was a terrible person. My father even suggested today that he did nothing but use me for 12 years. I yelled at him and offered the following as proof that that statement was untrue, though my father ignored the idea of seeing the evidence. I think it was very bad form to say that when he was suppose to be trying to cheer me up, how will that help me feel better? How will that build my self-esteem?

Inside my mind lives a great malignant God.
His voice is a thunderous scream
And his fists pound against the insides of my thoughts
He screams.
He screams for VENGEANCE.
He screams for BLOOD.
He screams for RAGE.
He screams for HATE.
He pounds his fists and stomps his feet
and he calls for my sanity and my life.
He is loud.
He is frightening.
and he is STRONG.

BUT........

Inside my mind lives a glowing benevolent Goddess.
Her voice is a beautiful rolling tympani
And her influence washes through my thoughts like the smell of Jasmine and
Honeysuckle
She sings for my HAPPINESS.
She sings for my HEART
She sings for my TRANQUILITY
She sings for my LOVE
She sings her song and weeps for my pain
and she calls for my sanity and my life.
She is quiet.
She is steadfast.
And she is STRONGER.

He has no name
but she does.

Can you guess it?

Rough Night

It is after midnight and I am still up. I tried going to bed, but all I did was cry. I decided watching tv and playing around on the net were a better way to stay up all night than crying my eyes out.

While I was busy today I was fine, but just as I was going to bed I started feeling down. I feel like a complete failure tonight. I felt the weight of the fact that I have failed at the thing that was most important to me for many years, making my husband happy. Right or wrong, all I've wanted since we got together was to make him happy. I wonder if I can get emotionally healthy if I couldn't achieve the goal of making him happy. If my motivation to make him happy wasn't enough, how will I find the will to fix myself?

Yes I wanted to help him fix his emotional issues. I've always believed in the power of love to make everything ok, even when I was at my most negative. I believed in love, that if you loved someone enough everything would turn out well. That idea has now been shattered. What else do I have left? Even though I gave him my mind, body, heart and soul I couldn't succeed in making him happy. How much of my idea that love fixed everything allowed me to relax and become complacent in the relationship? I thought our love was forever, that nothing could change it.

I wanted to help him be the writer and artist that he had always dreamed of becoming, but he hasn't written or drawn anything in years. Not until he was planning on leaving, even if it was subconsciously. How did I zap his muse, his inspiration? I wanted to get him into college, so he could teach as he has said he'd like to do for the last few years. He would make a great teacher. Finances have always been tight for us, I should have found the extra $100 for his books. He would also be a great counselor or psychologist. He acts all tough, but he really is a compassionate person for the most part. (A slight intolerance of stupid people.) He is very intelligent, could achieve anything that he set his mind too. He's not ambitious or materialistic, which has made some people think he's worthless and shiftless. He should have been a beatnik poet. He was born several years after he should have been.

Right now it seems the only thing I did right was give him the child he always wanted. He got so unhappy being with me, he had to leave her behind. It feels like I don't have a family anymore. My house is empty, a void. I love my daughter, but so much of what I consider home is not here anymore. Much of his stuff is still here because he simply didn't have room for it. I need to send the rest of it to him, if for no other reason than to get rid of the reminders of him. But then our daughter is a reminder, she is so much like him, even her smile and the set of her eyes. How can I move on with all this stuff here? With feeling his presence everyday? With hearing his voice?
But at the same time I feel compelled to call or text message him. There is a giant hole in my life where he should be. For him there is no hole where I should be, only a hole where Aislinn should be. It is hard to know how insignificant you are after 12 years, how seemingly meaningless your love has been.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

My Celebrity Look Alikes

Rollercoaster

The title says it all, the last few weeks, but especially this week have been topsy-turvy. Exactly three weeks ago today I found out my husband was leaving me, as of tomorrow he will have been living somewhere else for a month. He went away to think because he was unhappy and a week later I found it was over, not only over but that it had really been over for about six months without me having a clue.

The first three days after I found out I stayed home in shock and pain, then I went to work and was mostly okay. The second day I stayed home I went to a counselor and psychiarist, got some medicine, which didn't really help even after it was supposed to have kicked it. The sedatives helped keep me mellow and sleep. The next Monday I was so weak I couldn't stand up and ended up in the hospital, dehydrated. I couldn't eat, apparently wasn't drinking enough either. I had been losing a little weight before this, was excited to be getting back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, but now I have lost too much. I had to get new pants yesterday, because all mine are starting to fall off. I am 5'7" and I'm down to 100.5, I'd like to get back to 105 and stay there. Though my soon to be ex would like me to gain a little more than that, he's worried about me wasting away.

This week has been the most difficult in some ways. On Monday, I wrote an email explaining my feelings and an epiphany I had. Part of me was hoping it would change things, though he had already made it clear that it was completely over for him and that he would not change his mind. The email gave me hope, his response took it away and made me realize how much responsibility I had in the end of my marriage. In some ways it is easier to "be the victim". We never fought much, have been best friends for years. He has been my closest, and for the most part, only friend for twelve years. So in this I am losing a husband and a best friend. I still love him very much.

Then the next day was Valentine's Day, though we've never celebrated it, being that it's crass and commercial. I no longer had a lover to share it with. It was such a bad day that my students were constantly asking me what was wrong. If you have teenagers, you know how bad off I must have been for them to notice. It made me feel good to know that they cared. He also informed me on Wednesday that he would be leaving to come get his stuff on Thursday.

I woke up Thursday in a great mood, so great my mother was worried about me. I told her not to question it and enjoy it while it was there. I think the mood resulted from the end of the limbo of when he would be arriving to leave forever. I was in a good mood on Friday as well. Don, the husband, arrived in Alvin at 9 am on Friday. I came home to get some stuff for school, helped him pack up a few things. Then he informs me that they maybe leaving Saturday, possibly morning. I finally get mad, he needs to spend time with A., our daughter. I return to school and ask my assistant principal to get coverage for my afternoon classes so A. can spend time with her dad before he leaves. Luckily they could find coverage. I get her early and let her see her dad and grandpa.

A. spends sometime with her Papa and we do some talking. He came partially to give me closure, only a certain amount of closure can be achieved over the phone. I think one of the things that makes this so hard is that we still get along for the most part and that he still cares about me, at least a little. He never wanted to hurt me, and tried really hard to avoid it getting to this point. I still know all his stories and his habits. I can still finish his sentences, he can still finish mine.

Yesterday was hard. I knew the final goodbye was coming. He knew the longer he stayed the worst I would get. A. had a field trip to go on and said she wanted to go, Daddy would leave before she got back. He told her he would be gone and said his goodbyes. I had my dad take her, because I knew that I'd break down and didn't want her to see it. I needed to have that final catharsis of emotion. I needed the chance to yell and cry.

Today I woke up ok, writing about it brings all the feelings of sadness and pain back and it will for a while. Sometimes I look forward to the opportunity to explore who I am and trying new things, other times the idea scares the hell out of me. I really wish that I had had the courage to to it before, because then maybe things would have turned out differently.

People keep telling me I should get angry and hate him, but why? How will that help the situation? How will that help us raise our daughter? How will it help me move on? It won't fix the relationship. Once I am past the pain and have separated myself emotionally, I hope to be friends again. I have to move past the feeling of needing him and relying on him. I have to start cooking for myself, learning how fix things on the computer, take care of our daughter by myself, clean the house. I've never been alone before, I'm afraid that Aislinn won't like my cooking. That I'll always come second to Daddy in things, but that is one of my issues, having confidence in myself.

I have arranged to go to a meetup in my area with people of similar interests. I have been invited out for coffee by someone and I will probably go. I'm not ready to start a relationship, but I need to meet people.

I had made some resolutions about three weeks before all this started, something that I don't usually do. The most important ones were to be more positive, do Yoga everyday, laugh everyday, and write everyday. I still think I need to follow through on those, though I'll have to start now. I have to learn how to live for myself instead of him, though I may have to bridge that my learning to live for my daughter. I can't let her fall behind in my search for myself.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Day the World Shattered

Yesterday was a difficult day.

It was the day my husband and I told our daughter that we were splitting up and Daddy was moving away. To be honest, my husband told her since it is his choice. She tried everything to convince Daddy to stay, but as hard as it is for me and her, I know that in the long run it is for the best.

He implied that it was a mutual decision between us, it upset him that I didn't back him up on that, but I couldn't. I did tell her that I wanted Daddy to stay to but that Daddy needed to go to be "regular" Daddy again. I think much of my anxiety has been the double life I've been trying to lead, knowing that it is over but having to pretend it's not. Today I feel as if a great weight has been lifted and feel much calmer, not sure if it is because she now knows or if the medicine has finally started working.

The pain this is causing her is terrible and hurts me deeply. There is so much we can't explain to her because she can't possibly understand it at her age. After we got off the phone with Daddy I tried explaining why he had to leave. We had talked to her about how we, as a family, had gotten into bad habits and that we needed to change them to good habits so she wouldn't have bad habits as an adult. I told her that Mommy and Daddy wanted to change to become better people, but that we had gotten into habits with each other that made it hard or impossible for us to change in the ways we want. That for us both to become the people we wanted to be and be happy that we needed to be apart so we could develop those good habits. She said she still didn't understand, but I hope that it helped her in some way.

As for how she is, I'm not sure. We got home yesterday and she went about playing as she normally would. She seemed to have a good night sleep and is playing normally today. I don't know if she's in denial or what.

As for me, the whole time I was waiting to tell her I felt the need to be rid of my wedding ring. Now I'm not ready to take it off. My hand looks completely wrong without it, feels wrong too. I'm so confused, part of me wants to cling to my marriage, and part has accepted that it over and is ready to move on. I'm also terrified, I've never been on my own and don't really know who I am. Self discovery has always frightened me and now I have to do it. I have to start socializing. I have to get use to not having someone to say goodnight to or sleep next to.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Once Again into the Fray

I had a personal blog not that long ago. I didn't update it much and tended to do nothing but complain about politics and tell the occasional personal story. After receiving some rather shocking news, that my husband is leaving me, I deleted the whole blog in a fit of angst, anger, or a desire to shut myself off from the world (not sure really). I now regret this, I even killed my first attempt at poetry (other than the assigned stuff from school) in the process. The poem was probably a piece of crap, being a first attempt and all, but the feelings behind it were genuine and I am sad that I destroyed it and will never be able to recreate it.

This is me trying to start over in many ways. I have been told that I am a negative person, I have known it for years, but just recently have come to realize how negative I can be and how much it has affected my life. I have always considered myself a realist, I think of the worst first and feel prepared but hope for the best. However, somewhere along the way I've seemed to have forgotten how to get past the first negative. This is partly why my husband has decided to leave me. Now I'm not saying that this blog will never contain any bitching and moaning, but I'm hoping to find positive things to discuss too, or if I am ranting, to mention one positive thing from the day.

I am going through a lot right now and will probably use this as a place to deal with my issues and work through thoughts and feelings. A divorce I don't want, still having to tell our daughter that we aren't a "regular" family anymore, learning how to socialize and step out of my comfort zone, take risks, try new things, etc. Maybe some of you will want to read about my journey of self discovery, maybe you won't, it's still therapy for me.

I'm also hoping to use this as a place to brag on my daughter, talk about my favorite things, work on over coming my fear of writing.